Would your legislator ever consider decriminalizing heroin possession? Or maybe turning the Supreme Court justices’ elections partisan? What about allowing teenagers to taste alcohol?
The 2015 legislative session is just getting started, but already some proposed bills are likely to turn a few heads.
Sixteen Republicans and three Democrats have sponsored House Bill 1051, which would require Supreme Court justices — but no other judicial officer in the state — to declare a partisan affiliation when running for election. One sponsor, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, has called the bill more of a poke at the Supreme Court than a genuine attempt to pass legislation.
The bill comes in response to the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, which requires legislators to pass fundamental reforms to state education funding. The bill’s sponsors believe the Supreme Court violated the separation of powers by telling legislators explicitly what to do, and therefore “should be considered partisan like the legislature,” according to the bill’s first section.
Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, has sponsored Senate Bill 5008, which would amend the state definition of a “beverage” to exclude beer and other malt drinks. The proposal is all about the container, though not the liquid inside. The bill would allow business owners to sell beer in a new type of container with a recyclable lid. That type of bottle is prohibited under current law.
HB 1004, co-sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, and nine others, would allow community colleges and universities to hold alcohol tastings for those over the age of 18. It would also allow people between the ages of 18 and 21 to taste alcohol in relevant courses, such as viticulture.
Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, co-sponsored HB 1024, which would remove the felony classification from drug possession charges, reducing them to simple misdemeanors. The bill is set to be presented to the House Public Safety Committee on Jan. 16, but Appleton believes it’s too early to predict how the proposal will do.
“I expect that moving this through the Legislature will be a big challenge, and I can’t predict whether we’ll make it this year or not,” she said via e-mail. “What I hope to accomplish is to improve on the situation we now have, which finds us with people still incarcerated in our state for simple possession.”
Appleton’s identical bill last year never made it to the House floor. But proposing the same bill multiple times is not uncommon in the Legislature.
“All ideas need to start somewhere,” said independent pollster Stuart Elway. “If they know it's not going to pass this time, maybe next time or five years down the road it'll gain traction. There's a lot of [bills] that take two or three sessions before they ever make it further along.”
Among other interesting bills is a measure to outlaw breed-based dog bans, which some dog owners believe unfairly target certain breeds without the science to back up the bans. Another proposed bill would create an advisory committee to set East Asian-medicine standards.
The fate or future of any of these proposals rests with the legislative process that opened Monday in Olympia. For the curious, bills filed and their hearing schedule if referred to committee may be accessed at app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/.
For Legislature committee schedules, go to leg.wa.gov/legislature/pages/calendar.aspx.